Pirates hold off Bearcats|Roller homers twice in 8-run fifth

Published 11:31 pm Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sports Editor

GREENVILLE — Kyle Roller blasted two home runs in East Carolina’s 8-run fifth inning Sunday afternoon, helping the top-seed Pirates beat Binghamton, 16-9, and stay alive in the 2009 Greenville Regional. The No. 17 Pirates were slated to play No. 2 seed South Carolina (40-21) Sunday evening.
ECU needed to beat South Carolina Sunday night and Monday night in order to advance to the Super Regionals.
“Certainly, that was a great effort by our guys,” ECU coach Billy Godwin said. “I thought when we went down 7-3 and then put up an eight-spot in the fifth inning, it showed tremendous character and perseverance. This is the time of the year when we just want to win, survive and move on.”
The win for the top-seed Pirates (44-18) was the second over the fourth-seed Bearcats (30-22) in the regional. ECU also topped Binghamton 11-7 on Saturday.
The Bearcats, eliminated with the loss, made its first venture into an NCAA tournament.
“It was a wonderful experience for our guys and our program,” Binghamton coach Tim Sinicki said. “We competed very hard as we have all season.”
ECU starter Brad Mincey (10-5) had a valiant performance in a complete-game effort. The sophomore, who threw 142 pitches, allowed nine runs (two earned) on 11 hits. Mincey fanned five and walked one.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had to throw that many pitches in a game,” Mincey said. “I was just doing whatever would help the team and help the bullpen so we would be ready for the next game.”
Roller belted two home runs and drove in three during ECU’s 8-run fifth inning, helping the Pirates rally from a 7-3 deficit. The Pirates sent 12 batters to the plate and collected eight hits in storming back to take an 11-7 lead.
“Honestly, on the first home run, I was just trying to put the ball in play with two strikes,” Roller said. “He left a change-up over the plate and I was kind of out on my front foot, but I got the best of it and the wind helped me out.”
Roller (4-for-5, 2 HRs, 4 RBIs) started the uprising with a leadoff blast to pull the Pirates within 7-4. Pinch-hitter Austin Homan’s bases-loaded, two-run single made it 7-6 and chased Binghamton freshman reliever Morgan Smith (1-3), who was tagged with the loss. He allowed five runs on four hits in one inning.
Trent Whitehead (3-for-5, 2 RBIs) greeted Binghamton reliever James Giulietti (3 runs, 3 hits in one-third of an inning) with an RBI single into right, knotting the game at 7-7. Stephen Batts belted a two-run double into left, giving the Pirates a 9-7 advantage. Roller capped the uprising by smashing a two-run shot for his second homer of the inning, 15th of the season and 38th of his career.
ECU scored twice in the first off Binghamton starter Walker McKinven (3 runs, 5 hits in 3 1/3 innings), who made just his third career start.
Binghamton took advantage of some sloppy ECU defense in the third, batting around and scoring four times on five hits. Dave Ciocchi (3-for-5, 5 RBIs) hit a two-run single, Peter Bregartner (2-for-4, 3 RBIs) had an RBI single and Corey Taylor’s run-scoring groundout helped Binghamton take a 4-2 lead.
Whitehead’s gutsy RBI double highlighted ECU’s fourth. After Zach Wright belted a one-out double, Whitehead went to bat. The former Washington Pam Pack star fouled the ball off his foot, and he immediately crumpled to the ground in pain. Whitehead took some time walking around and talking with trainers and coaches before returning to the batter’s box.
On the very next pitch, Whitehead clobbered an RBI double down the left field line to pull the Pirates within 4-3.
Ciocchi’s bases-loaded-clearing double in the fourth, coming after some more shoddy ECU defense, gave Binghamton a 7-3 advantage.
The 8-run fifth gave the Pirates an 11-7 advantage.
Brandon Henderson’s bases-loaded sac fly and Dustin Harrington’s RBI single in the seventh made it 13-7.
Bregartner’s two-run homer in the bottom half, his third, pulled Binghamton within 13-9.
Corey Thompson’s run-scoring single in the eighth gave ECU a little more breathing room at 14-9. Drew Schieber hit a solo shot during ECU’s two-run ninth to cap the scoring.